In a letter dated April 19th, 2011 – one day before the Apple iPhone tracking hullabaloo all began – Verizon’s VP of government relations Peter Davidson wrote to congress concerning the topic of consumer privacy.
The just released letter is in response to a March 29th letter from two congressmen, Joe Barton and Edward Markey, two house members with a history of being involved in the consumer privacy issue. Their letters were sent to all four major carriers and asked about privacy practices, notably location tracking.
We’ve all known for quite some time now that service providers keeps extensive location records on file. Providers assure us that these records are not shared with any third-parties and are only used for the betterment of service and in the rare case that they need to be accessed by law enforcement.
In the letter, Verizon makes a point to differentiate their privacy practices with those of manufacturers like Google and Apple and third-party applications that access your location data:
When these applications and services are provided by Verizon Wireless, Verizon Wireless only collects and uses customer location information for non-service and operational purposes, such as delivery of a locally relevant ad or coupon, upon providing clear disclosure and after obtaining the customer’s affirmative consent. Verizon Wireless authorizes third-party application developers and service providers to utilize Verizon Wireless-provided technologies to obtain customer location information only if they adhere to the same disclosure and consent requirements
As to applications and services provided by third parties (without the use of Verizon Wireless technologies), however, Verizon Wireless does not and indeed cannot control the collection and use of location information. Verizon Wireless therefore provides its customers with prominent notices about privacy concerns that may arise in third-party-provided location services, and gives customers tools to limit or restrict the collection and use of the information.
Verizon also addresses just how long they store your location data: up to 7 years.
The most interesting piece of info detailed in this letter is that Verizon plans to slap a warning label on phones operating with Verizon service. This label will warn customers that the device in their hand is capable of tracking their location. While not as ‘duh’ as McDonalds “this coffee is hot” warning labels, I wonder what’s the real purpose of the label. Here’s what it’ll look like, according to the letter.
AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile also responded to the congressmen. Read all of the response here.
Wednesday, Apple finally responded to the tracking issue. The fact that user data was being logged for up to a year was blamed on a bug.